New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Students demand food security measures in petition to Mills

NYU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America called for the university to change its approach to food insecurity in a petition delivered to administrators.
Spriha Jha
Members of NYU YDSA in the Bobst Lobby after delivering a petition addressing the university’s approach to food insecurity. (Spriha Jha for WSN)

Around 10 students from NYU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America gathered at Bobst Library on Monday to deliver a petition addressed to NYU president Linda Mills, calling on the university to implement new food security initiatives.

The suggested initiatives in the petition, which garnered over 170 signatures, include that NYU offer free meal plans to food-insecure students and those in households making less than $100,000 per year. YDSA is also requesting that NYU publicize details regarding its revenue from meal plans and create departmental and residential food pantries in every building. 

Yvonne Erazo, NYU’s director of student basic needs, received the petition from students in Bobst’s lobby on behalf of university administration.

“The university will review the petition,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote to WSN. “In the meantime, students experiencing food insecurity should be aware that we have programs to help them.” 

The petition also called on the university to allow students to donate and redeem an unlimited amount of swipes through the Swipe it Forward program — a meal donation system for students without a meal plan or with less than $15 in Dining Dollars that is partially run by the student government. As of last semester, NYU Eats limited donations to three per day, with students only being able to redeem one swipe per week. 

NYU also has a Courtesy Meals program for students facing unexpected financial difficulties, which gives eligible students 75 Dining Dollars. Students must request to receive aid from the program in person at the university’s Washington Square or Brooklyn campuses.

A woman wearing an N.Y.U. nametag holds an envelope while talking with a group of students in a lobby.
Members of NYU YDSA delivering the petition to Director of Student Basic Needs Yvonne Erazo. (Spriha Jha for WSN)

Sophomore and YDSA representative Brandon Wu said the group wrote the petition in response to the NYU Promise — a plan that guarantees free tuition to incoming students who live in households with annual incomes of $100,000 or less. In the petition, the group argues that the university “took an essential first step toward increasing the accessibility and affordability of an NYU education” but that “students have yet to have their basic needs addressed, specifically in terms of food security.”

“That’s why we’re here; to let the administration know that we think these programs it’s implementing are insufficient,” Wu said in an interview with WSN. “If they want to live up to the promise properly, they should take steps to do that — not just being able to come to the university, but being able to study here without fear of starvation or not being able to attend classes with peace of mind.”

YDSA has also made efforts to gather data on student food security status and better understand experiences with meal plans as a part of their campaign to help improve food resources on campus. The group created a Google Form, asking students questions about food insecurity, the affordability of meal plans and how their food habits impact their experience at NYU. 

The university has collected data on food insecurity among students in the past. In 2019, NYU received responses from 257 undergraduate students on their food security status. The university reported that 41% of respondents “met criteria for food insecurity” on campus. In a second round of data collection in 2020, 26% of 193 student respondents said they were experiencing “low to very low food security.”

“One thing that YDSA does generally push for is envisioning a campus that is more equitable and just than students may imagine,” said YDSA member Lily Mobraaten, “We don’t want to be living on a campus where food insecurity is the norm, where not having basic needs met is the norm.”

Contact Gabrielle Panelo at [email protected].

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